Under the pseudonym "Bolton Rowe," he wrote the libretto to Arthur Sullivan's one-act comic opera, The Zoo in 1875. Stephenson then collaborated with Clement Scott on the English versions of Victorien Sardou's plays Nos intimes (as Peril) and Dora (Diplomacy) and the text for Lecocq's operette Le Petit Duc. Stephenson also supplied the libretto for a three-act grand opera version of Longfellow's The Masque of Pandora, composed by Alfred Cellier, and presented in Boston, Massachusetts in 1881.
Stephenson's first full-length musical was also his biggest hit, the comic opera Dorothy on which he collaborated with Alfred Cellier, based on Cellier's earlier score for Nell Gwynne. The piece opened at the Gaiety Theatre on 25 September 1886. The show transferred to two other theatres, ultimately closing in 1889, a long run that eclipsed even Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. Much criticized on its first production, Stephenson's libretto was treated to much scholarly analysis after Dorothy became a hit, and its initially despised plot was traced seriously back to the Restoration playwrights, David Garrick and Aphra Behn.
The pair then collaborated on another Cellier remake, Doris, which had a good run. However a collaboration with Arthur Goring Thomas on another comedy, The Golden Web, in spite of some positive critical attention, was short-lived. Although Stephenson wrote a number of songs and a few more stage works, he did not have any further musical theatre success.
Stephenson died in Taplow.